Light Anti-Ship Missiles for the Philippine Navy

The Philippines’ Department of Defense (DoD) last year announced that it is looking at the possibility of acquiring Anti-Ship weapons to beef up the country’s Maritime Surveillance Capability[1]. I think it is about time as I feel that Anti Ship Missiles (ASMs) are needed for our warships in order to improve their capability of going up against enemy ships, especially at this time when China has been BLATANTLY showing aggressive acts in terms of acquiring our territorial waters.

‘Which Ships?’
The Philippine Navy (PN) currently have a total of around 14 Corvettes and Frigates. Of these, only 5 are truly modern (3 Peacock class Corvettes and 2 Hamilton class Frigates), while the rest are World War 2 relics. The PN does have 38 Patrol Craft vessels, all of whom are fairly modern, with the oldest class manufactured in the 1970s.[2]

I am not sure if the 9 relics are even capable of being retro-fitted with ASMs at all, and even if they are, I am not sure you would want to put those very expensive ASMs on such old vessels. At any rate, another issue is that 3 of the modern ships, the Peacock class ships, have balance issues and could not be fitted with large ASMs in the class of the Harpoon missiles, and will have to be fitted with lighter ASMs.[3]

A vast majority of our Patrol Craft vessels are below 200 tons in weight, below the weight of standard Fast Attack Missile Crafts armed with standard-sized ASMs.[4] So in effect, we only really have 2 ships that can be fitted with ASMs, while the rest will have to be fitted with lighter ASMs.

Since a majority of our ships can only be fitted with light ASMs, then perhaps the DoD could prioritize the acquisition of these types of ASMs to improve the capability of the PN. A dozen ships with light ASMs I feel would be better than having 2 or 4 (if plans for purchase of additional modern Frigates push thru) Harpoon-armed ships.

‘Which Light ASMs?’
A vast majority of ASMs available in the world right now are the heavy types[5], and in fact only 1 missile currently in service is considered to be a “light” ASM, and that is the SEA SKUA missile. It is made in the United Kingdom by MBDA, weighs 145 kg with a 30kg warhead and an official range of 15km, flying at a speed of 0.8 Mach.[6]

There is another option in the AGM-114 Hellfire missile. This missile was initially developed as an air-launched, anti-tank weapon, but due to the lack of light ASMs out there right now it has been considered as a Light ASM due to its ability to punch thru armor, which means it could also be useful in terms of punching thru a ship’s hull. It is made in the United States of America (USA) by Lockheed Martin, is much lighter than the Sea Skua at only 49kg, and its warhead is only 9kg, but it is using shaped-charge technology enabling it to punch thru thick armor. It only has a range of 8km, though, but flies at a faster speed of Mach 1.3.[7]

Between the 2, the Sea Skua is definitely superior in terms of range and warhead, and if only technical considerations are concerned, then it should win outright. However, the UK does have a record of being choosy on which countries to sell weapons to as they often consider also other aspects like Political and Human Rights climate, etc. Philippines-UK weapons deals have occurred in the past, but these have been rare, and for us it would be easier and with more generous financial deals could be made with the United States instead.

Other Anti-Tank Missiles could also be considered for light ASM use, but as of now, I think the Hellfire could be our best option due to our close ties with the United States.

‘Cannons and Light ASMs’
Because of their shorter range and lighter warheads, Light ASMs are outranged and outgunned by the standard 76mm cannons in service with Corvettes and up ships. A typical Oto Melara 76mm cannon has a range of between 16-30km, for example, and its shells have a warhead of around 6kg, but can be fired at a rate of at least 60 rounds per minute.[8] Because of this, I think it would be redundant to arm any ship with a modern 76mm cannon with Light ASMs. As of now, the 3 modern Peacock-class ships already have this, so therefore for me no need to arm them with it.

We do have a lot of Patrol Crafts, and all of which are armed with cannons below 76mm caliber, and I feel it is these ships that would need the service of these Light ASMs as it will certainly improve the range and punch of their weapons. Here is a short list of some of these Patrol Crafts, along with the number of ships per class, weight and caliber of main weapon:
– Aguinaldo class, 215 tons, 40mm Bofors, 2 ships[9]
– Alvarez (Cyclone) class, 331 tons, 25mm Bushmaster, 1 ship[10]
– Batilo (Chamsuri) class, 148 tons, 40mm Bofors, 7 ships[11]
– Yap class, 75 tons, 40mm Bofors, 3 ships[12]

I am not sure if all of these ships can be fitted with Light ASMs, but if a majority of them can, then would definitely help in terms of improving the firepower of our naval warships.

‘Parting Shot’
The threat of war is being put on the Philippines by bullies who think they can easily take away from our territories because of our weak external defensive capability. Most of these bullies not only has much modern navies, they also outnumber ours by a good margin.

However, arming at least a dozen or so of our smaller ships with some missile capability will go a long way towards improving our defensive capabilities. These will serve to COMPLEMENT our acquisition of bigger ships and modern aircrafts over the next couple of years to serve as deterrent against these foreign aggressors.

[1] DND orders military to look into possible acquisition of anti-ship weapons,
[2] List of ships of the Philippine Navy,
[3] Jacinto-class Corvette,
[4] Missile Boats,
[5] Anti-Ship Missile,
[6] Sea Skua,
[7] AGM-114 Hellfire,
[8] OTO Melara 76 mm,
[9] General Emilio Aguinaldo-class large patrol boats,
[10] Cyclone-class patrol ship,
[11] Tomas Batillo-class patrol craft,
[12] Conrado Yap-class patrol craft,


7 thoughts on “Light Anti-Ship Missiles for the Philippine Navy”

    1. Good suggestion, but I wonder if it will limit the speed and maneuverability of the ships too much. I also wonder how the ships and barges will fare in high seas.

      1. some time back i saw a film about President Roosevelt, the setting was ww2. he said and i quote” don’t tell me it can’t be done,” then he stood up.. he was a paralytic…

  1. US 1.8 billion is the amount allocated to defense. imagine spending just about 800 million us dollar on coastal missile defense both anti ship and anti air. in a year’s time perhaps the philippine islands would be a formidable diplomacy leverage…

    1. The Marte, Gabriel and Penguin AShMs are definitely better, but at around 350 kg each they weigh almost 10 times the weight of the 45 kg Hellfire missiles, not sure if our smaller boats can carry them, their launchers and support equipment without affecting their balance. I think small, 50 kg missiles are best for these small boats …

  2. A lesson should be learned from the history of the United States Navy and their first six frigates. The British Royal Navy mounted 18 pound cannon on their frigates. The United States Navy mounted 24 pound cannon on their frigates like the USS Constitution. When the USS Constitution met the the British HMS Guerriere in battle the bigger 24 pound cannon demolished the British ship. The Philippine Navy should retire the old ships and spend the money on putting the biggest Anti-Ship Missiles possible on the BRP RAMON ALCARAZ(PF-16) and the BRP GREGORIO DEL PILAR(PF-15). A small navy like the PN needs to mount the biggest and most lethal weapons on its ships in order to survive an actual battle.

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